Page images
PDF
EPUB

and astrology, they will needs persuade me that I am no less a proficient in all other sciences. However, the point mentioned in the following letter is so plain a one, that I think Fneed not trouble myself to cast a figure to be able to discuss it.

“ Mr. Bickerstaff, It is some years ago since the entail of the estate of our family was altered by passing a fine in favour of me, who am now in possession of it, after some others deceased. The heirs general, who live beyond sea, were excluded by this settlement, and the whole estate is to pass in a new channel after me and my heirs. But several tenants of the lordship persuade me to let them hereafter hold their lands of me according to the old customs of the barony, and not oblige them to act by the limitations of the last settlement. This, they say, will make me more popular among my dependants, and the ancient vassals of the estate, to whom any deviation from the line of succession is always invidious.

Yours, &c.

• Sir,

Sheer-lane, June 24. “ You have by the fine a plain right, in which none else of your family can be your competitor; for which reason, by all means demand vassalage upon that title. The contrary advice can be given no other

purpose in nature but to betray you, and favour other pretenders, by making you place a right which is in you only, upon a level with a right which you have in common with others.

I am, Sir,
Your most faithful servant until death,

I. B.”

There is nothing so dangerous or so pleasing, as compliments made to us by our enemies, and my

correspondent tells me, that though he knows several of those who give him this counsel were at first against passing the fine in favour of him; yet he is so touched with their homage to him, that he can hardly believe they have a mind to set it aside, in order to introduce the heirs-general into his estate.

These are great evils : but since there is no proceeding with success in this world, without complying with the arts of it, I shall use the same method as my correspondent's tenants did with him, in relation to one whom I never had a kindness for; but shall, notwithstanding, presume to give him my advice.

ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, Esq. of GREAT BRITAIN,

to Lewis the Fourteenth of FRANCE. “ Sir, “Your Majesty will pardon me while I take the liberty to acquaint you, that some passages written from

your side of the water do very much obstruct your interest. We take it very unkindly that the prints of Paris are so very partial in favour of one set of men among us, and treat the others as irreconcileable to your interests. Your writers are very large in recounting any thing which relates to the figure and power of one party, but are dumb when they should represent the actions of the other. This is a trifling circumstance which many here are apt to lay some stress upon; and therefore I thought fit to offer it to your consideration before you dispatch the next courier.

1. B."

No 191. THURSDAY, JUNE 29, 1710.

Propter vitam vivendi perdere eausas.

Juv. Sat. viii. 84.

-Basely they
The sacred cause for which they're born, betray,
Who give up Virtue for a worthless life.

R. WYNNE.

From my own Apartment, June 28. Of all the evils under the sun, that of making vice commendable is the greatest: for it seems to be the basis of society, that applause and contempt should be always given to proper objects. But in this age we behold things, for which we ought to have an abhorrence, not only received without disdain, but even valued as motives of emulation. This is naturally the destruction of simplicity of manners, openness of heart, and generosity of temper. When a person gives himself the liberty to range and run over in his thoughts the different genuises of men which he meets in the world, one cannot but observe, that most of the indirection and artifice, which is used among men, does not proceed so much from a degenerancy in nature, as an affectation of appearing men of consequence by such practices.

By this means it is, th a cunning man is so far from being ashamed of being esteemed such, that he secretly rejoices in it. It has been a sort of maxim, that the greatest art is to conceal art; but I know not how, among some people we meet with, their greatest cunning is to appear cunning. There is Polypragmon makes it the whole business of his life to be thought a cunning fellow, and thinks it a much greater character to be terrible than agreeable. When it has once entered into a man's head to have

a

It is a

an ambition to be thought crafty, all other evils are necessary consequences. To deceive is the immediate endeavour of him, who is proud of the capacity of doing it. It is certain, Polypragmon does all the ill he possibly can, but pretends to much more than he performs. He is contented in his own thoughts, and hugs himself in his closet, that though he is locked up there, and doing nothing, the world does not know but that he is doing mischief. To favour this suspicion, he gives half-looks and shrugs in his general behaviour, to give you to understand that you

do not know what he means. He is also wonderfully adverbial in his expressions, and breaks off with Perhaps" and a nod of the head upon matters of the most indifferent nature. mighty practice with men of this genius to avoid frequent appearance in public, and to be as mysterious as possible when they do come into company. There is nothing to be done, according to them, in the common way; and let the matter in hand be what it will, it must be carried with an air of importance, and transacted, if we may so speak, with an ostentatious secrecy. These are your persons of long-heads, who would fain make the world believe their thoughts and ideas are very much superior to their neighbours; and do not value what these their neighbours think of them, provided they do not reckon them fools. These have such a romantic touch in business, that they hate to perform any thing like other men. Were it in their choice, they had rather bring their purposes to bear by over-reaching the persons they deal with, than by a plain and simple manner. They make difficulties for the honour of surmounting them. Polypragmonis eternally busied after this manner, with no other prospect, than that he is in hopes to be thought the most cunning of all men, and fears the imputation of want of understanding much more than that of the abuse of it. But, alas! how contemptible is such an ambition, which is the very reverse of all that is truly laudable, and the very contradiction to the only means to a just reputation, simplicity of manners! Cunning can in no circumstance imaginable be a quality worthy a man except in his own defence, and merely to conceal himself from such as are so; and in such cases, it is no longer craft, but wisdom. The monstrous affectation of being thought artful immediately kills all thoughts of humanity and goodness; and gives men a sense of the soft affections and impulses of the mind, which are imprinted in us for our mutual advantage and succour, as of mere weaknesses and follies. According to the men of cunning, you are to put off the nature of man as fast as you can and acquire that of a dæmon ; as if it were a more eligible character to be a powerful

enemy, than an able friend. But it ought to be a mortification to men affected this way, that there wants but little more than instinct to be considerable in it; for when a man has arrived at being very bad in his inclination, he has not much more to do but to conceal himself, and he may revenge, cheat, and deceive, without much employment for understanding, and go on with great cheerfulness with the high applause of being a prodigious cunning fellow. But, indeed, when we arrive at the pitch of false taste, as not to think cunning a contemptible quality, it is, methinks, a very great injustice that pickpockets are had in so little veneration; who must be admirably well turned, not only for the theoretic, but also the practical behaviour of cunning fellows. After all the endeavours of this family of men whom we call cunning, their whole work falls to pieces, if others will lay down all esteem for such artifices; and treat it as an unmanly quality, which they forbear to practise, only because they abhor it. When the spider is ranging in the different apartments of

« PreviousContinue »